2014 has been an incredible year! I want to pause to rejoice, reflect upon and remember all that has happened this past year.
Brian Lowe, the lead pastor at Exodus Church where I attend, preached an excellent sermon on Psalm 48 about the Israelites rejoicing, reflecting upon and remembering all that God had done for them. As I look back at 2014, I want to do the same.
It’s so very easy to look at the year to come and dream about all the exciting things that will happen and forget about the exciting things happened in the year before. We don’t value reflection in American culture, and I think that is a huge misstep because we all too easily forget where we came from. Jesus has been incredibly gracious to me, my family and my business in 2014, so I want to take the time to write down and reflect upon all the good and gracious things he alone has done.
I’ve broken this down into two segments: business and personal. I’ll address the business review first, and then I will go on to reflect upon personal milestones and achievements.
2014 Business Reflection and Review
2014 was an incredible year for my business. I saw a ton of new things happen that I want to reflect upon and document.
I hired my very first employee. This was a huge step for me. I hired my very first full-time employee back in February of this year. Up until this point, it had been just me and a couple of interns at one point during the summer of 2013. I remember the moment being scary but very necessary as I was drowning in support for my products. It was all I could to do stay afloat, much less actually make any good updates to the products, so hiring some extra help was a big leap forward. Getting me outside of the business so I could work on the business was one of my big goals for 2014, and that first employee was a huge step in that direction.
I launched Envira Gallery. It seems like forever ago, but I actually launched Envira Gallery back in January of 2014. I can’t believe it has been almost a year since that occurred. It has seen steady growth since the initial launch, and our team has added a ton of new awesome features to the plugin. It has grown more slowly than I would have liked, but that’s because of my next reflection.
I watched OptinMonster explode. It only took a matter of months before OptinMonster began to explode in popularity. Even today, I see OptinMonster everywhere. I’ve even had family say they’ve seen OptinMonster on sites that they visit! I watched as our daily goal for OptinMonster sales began to be shattered on a consistent basis. I remember driving down to Savannah in January 2013 to meet with Syed for the first time to discuss our plans with OptinMonster, and I specifically remember talking on the phone with one of my friends about how big this thing could potentially be. Little did I know that my expectations would be far surpassed within the first few months. Seriously – I was thinking that this *might* make 6 figures in the first year. Thousands and thousands of customers later, I smile looking back to that day because I literally had no idea what would happen in the first year of OptinMonster being on the market. Even in my wildest dreams I never imagined the success I would see today, and for that I am immensely grateful and humbled.
I saw my business revenue quadruple. It wasn’t just OptinMonster that grew – everything else grew along with it. In fact, at one point I remember looking at my books and literally starting to tear up because I couldn’t fathom the numbers I was seeing. I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve, and I can attribute that immense blessing to no one other than Jesus.
I merged my business with Syed. It just made sense. We work well together – our strengths compliment one another, and our weaknesses are evened out with the other’s strengths. Part of this merger meant hiring more people and putting together a team, and I am amazed at what our team has done so far. They are hard workers, and I am so thankful to have them under my leadership. Their work makes me strive to be better leader and peer, and I’m indebted to their contributions to our company’s many successes in 2014.
I started to move out of the forest. For the longest time, I worked both in and on my business. This is fine (and necessary) when it is just you running the show, but when you have a team of people working with you and depending on you for the next move, you’ve got to give up control so that you can be the leader you need to be. I am constantly learning ways where I can empower my team to do what they love all while letting go of areas that I used to control. This has been very tough for me because I love building things, but it is a necessary step if I want to watch our company grow and compete at the next level. I haven’t stopped building things completely, but I just don’t do it as much because my roles are shifting as our company grows.
I hired a bookkeeper. This was so freeing because I didn’t have to worry about my books or payroll anymore. To me, a bookkeeper is a well-deserved asset that you need on your team. I saved so much time by allowing him to do what he was good at so that I could focus on building my business. In the end, I now have an infinitely better picture of my company’s financial health and will have way less work to do when tax season comes around.
I attend more WordCamps and even spoke at one again! I took a lot of time off from traveling in 2013 because I wanted to focus on building out OptinMonster. This year I traveled more and attended a few more WordCamps, including Atlanta, Miami and Orlando. I spoke at WordCamp Orlando this year and had a great time speaking to an entirely different audience than what I am used to (majority beginners).
2014 Personal Reflection and Review
2014 was also an excellent year for me personally, and I want to reflect on a few highlights from there as well.
We became debt-free (minus our house). This was a big milestone for me and one of the biggest goals that I achieved this year. I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan and am a firm believer in his gazelle intense philosophy. I decided that I wanted to become debt-free this year, and boy did I work hard at it. I paid off both of our cars and paid off the entirely new heating and air system we had to have replaced back in May. I also paid off a bunch of landscaping that we had done to our house, and I also paid off our new water heater that we had to have replaced in April. The freedom of not having any debts is, well, freeing. I’ve always said that personal finances will affect business decisions, so I wanted to align my values with what I actually did. We currently have no debt except for our house, and I’m pretty dead-set on getting that thing paid off as soon as humanly possible.
We put back 8 months savings in the bank. On top of paying off all of our debt, I was also able to put back almost 8 months of savings in the bank. Because of the nature of technology, I am fully aware that success can dry up in the blink of an eye. Although I am working hard to prevent that from happening, I know that life happens. This “emergency fund”, “safety net”, “buffer between you and life” or whatever you want to call it is an investment in my marriage and my mental and physical health. Now I have the peace of mind that when an unexpected event occurs, it’s no longer a crushing disaster but a minor inconvenience.
I taught a class on the gospel and productivity. This was something new that I really, really enjoyed doing. Most people have the misconception that the gospel simply saves you from your sin, but this is only half of the equation. The gospel not only saves you from sin but calls you to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). In this class, I unpacked how to gospel changes the way we view productivity and getting things done, and gave both a theological and practical perspective for that view. I was able to refine my personal mission statement for life, which I have documented below.
My Mission Statement
“To serve, honor and enjoy Jesus while furthering His kingdom and mission in this world by doing everything I do with excellence.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
1. To be quick to seek Jesus’ grace, mercy and help in any endeavor that I undertake: work, personal and spiritual alike.
2. To be careful to serve Jesus to the fullest in whatever position He has called me.
3. To be humble always so that I may repent of sin, learn with dignity, teach with grace and submit with willingness where necessary.
4. To encapsulate all these things with a fervor, energy and excellence that only God can grant and sustain.
I am a broken and sinful man in desperate need of God’s loving kindness, grace and mercy. I am adopted as His child through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and kept by the power of His ever-present Spirit. I am called to be bountiful in loving, serving and enjoying God as long as I live on this earth.
I coached a high school golf team, and we won the conference tournament! This was exciting as it was the first conference championship for the school in golf. I am a big fan of golf (and a scratch golfer), and I had so much fun coaching and watching these kids blossom into a talented team that won the conference tournament by 7 strokes outright. Our top 4 golfers won all-conference medals, with our #1 golfer qualifying as the #1 individual in the state tournament.
We went on a trip to visit friends in Alaska. Alaska was beautiful and cold. We went in February to visit some of our dear friends who are stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. We got to see some of the incredible ice sculptures from people all around the world competing in the world ice sculpting challenge. We were able to relax in a natural hot spring with it being like -10 degrees outside (beard-freezing cold). We saw the Northern Lights and even got to go skijoring. We saw the start of the Iditarod sled dog race in Anchorage on our last days of the trip. I’ve included a few of the pictures from the trip below.
…and the list could go on and on and on.
Onward to 2015
2014 – it has been a great ride.
I’ve been blessed beyond measure, and I’m excited to see what 2015 holds. I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, and even if everything falls away, I can still rejoice because my hope is in Jesus and not the fleeting things of this world.
I’ve got a short list of things I want to do in 2015, but none are particularly easy!
- I want to pay off my house completely. I want to be completely debt free, including my house, at some point in 2015. This will mean being diligent about sticking to our budget and living well below our means until that happens. Laura and I have both been called to be generous with what we are given to steward, and it’s hard to be generous when you are a slave to a lender. Needless to say, I want to out from under that burden as soon as humanly possible.
- I want to launch a new product. This is already in the works, but it is a goal nonetheless. It’s easy to get stuck in maintenance mode for other endeavors, so I find it necessary to remind yourself of things you want to accomplish so that you actually do them.
That’s all. I told you it was a short list, but neither of those things are easy to do. I’ll have my work cut out for me, and when I achieve them, I’ll work on my next list of goals to achieve!
What has happened for you in 2014? What do you hope for in 2015? I’d love to know!
Congrats on your success this year, Thomas. It’s well deserved.
I too hired my first employee this year and am already facing the dilemma of how to work on my business as well as in my business. It’s easy for it to become a situation where you do only the unfun work no one else can do, which is not ideal 🙂
Thanks Clif! I appreciate the kind words!
That is a really tough challenge. I’m still struggling with the transition almost a year into it. One of the things that has really helped is doing brain dumps – simply getting everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper (or in my case a whiteboard). Then it is much easier to visualize what is important and what needs to happen next, and it gives you a clear picture on where you are at right now. That helps you determine what’s best next for both you and your employee, which can further facilitate that process of working on and not in. 🙂
That’s a great tip. Going to do that this week while things are still pretty quiet 🙂
Awesome – I love it. Makes me less stressed and gives me a good understanding of what to do next – everyone I know that has done it loves it!
Congrats on your great year and paying off those debts. I hope you are able to pay off your house in 2015. That will be incredible!
If you ever write an article about your experience hiring and delegating, I’ll be excited to read it. It seems like a lot of us start as freelancers who transition to selling our own product. Then, stuff gets too busy for one person and… we don’t know exactly what to do. It sounds like you’ve figured it out.
PS. Can you please turn guest commenting on in Disqus?
I haven’t figured everything out, but I at least haven’t reverted or lost that employee yet, so maybe I have some wisdom to share! That would be a great topic to share about.
And sure, I turned on guest commenting just now for future topics. 🙂
I like your technical and business skills as much as I dislike your religious views. As this site is about the former, could you shut up about the latter, which are offensive?
Certainly you are entitled to your own views but so is Thomas Griffin and he decides what his website is about.
This is why I respect Thomas. I’m sure he knows that when he attributes his success to Jesus, there are people out there like you who will say unkind things. But he says it anyway because he’s not ashamed to be a follower of Christ.
I respect his knowledge about WordPress but his commitment to fairy stories undermines his credibility.
As to unkindness, I think propagating empty mysticism is far more unkind, so perhaps he should be a little ashamed, just as I would be if I lived my life by astrology.
Both go hand in hand – I can’t separate the two if I wanted.
Also, because trolls.
If you can’t separate the two, then your grasp of logic and therefore ultimately code must be suspect.
Also because trolls what?
I can let the code speak for itself. 🙂
I’d really appreciate it if you would.
So stick to Thomas’ code and refrain from sharing hater thoughts on someone else’s blog.
luroch, speaking honestly isn’t hating and I wasn’t the one to bring the religion dimension to the conversation. In my view, standing up for the truth and reason is an act of love, not hate.
It is actually okay to have differing views you know, loosely it’s called conversation, so try to be a little less confrontational…
Chris, let’s not fight about it. I think you are the one who took the path of confrontation. The guy was only talking about his (great) accomplishments and you could have ignored the religious side of the post.
Nonetheless, let’s skip it. I wish you all the best in 2015.
And Thomas, congrats on your year!
Thanks Luis!! 🙂
I can definitely see why someone sharing their personal beliefs on their personal website would be offensive to you. The humanity.
Wow! Epic missing the point there.
Congrats Thomas! Your growth has been awe inspiring!
Thanks John! We need to catch up soon as well. Hope you had an awesome 2014, too – will you be at Pressnomics?
Yeah man, let’s do it! I get in early on Wednesday around 3. Let’s meet up if you get in early as well.
Sure thing – I get in around 4pm so we will have to hang out before dinner.
ok cool, I’ll ping you once I get in.
I’ll be there too!
This has been an awesome year Thomas. Looking forward to many more great ones 🙂
Here’s to an awesome 2015!
Thanks man! You were a huge part of the success in 2014. I’m excited about 2015!
Thanks for sharing the inspiring review Thomas. Congratulations on becoming Debt Free!
I join you in praising God for His grace and I applaud you for not being ashamed of the Gospel!
Thanks man! Being debt free is awesome, and I can’t wait to be completely debt free when I pay off my house!!
Jesus is everything – I’d be foolish to think that this came from anywhere else! To him be the glory and praise. 🙂
Congrats on the awesome achievement, Thomas. I am a big fan of OptinMonster, you (and Syed) have done a fantastic job with the plugin.
Best wishes for 2015!
Thanks!! I really appreciate it. I wish you the best in 2015 as well. 🙂
Thomas, one year ago, soon after we installed OptinMonster, I ‘looked you up’ to get help. Reading this post confirmed who I thought you were. How refreshing to know the author of my favorite plugin is a Believer. Very cool. — Growthtrac Ministries —
That’s awesome Jim. It’s a testament to God’s varied grace – glad to have you as a customer!
You and Syed are an inspiring team!
Thanks – I appreciate the kind words!
Thank you for this inspiring post Thomas, it looks like you have done a lot in just one year. I’ve just started my (WP) related business and I find it very inspiring to see how you combine your faith with doing business.
Congratulation Thomas! Really Inseparable Post.